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Psychotic Disorders Research Program

view of patient with Doctor reviewing document  The Psychotic Disorders Research Program at the UMass Chan Medical School (UMass Chan), Department of Psychiatry, aims to elucidate the etiology of each facet of the triple jeopardy (devastating mental illness, medical co-morbidity, and substance use), and possibly shared pathophysiological pathways and mechanisms among these three conditions. The goal of our research is to develop innovative intervention strategies combining pharmacological and psychosocial approaches to treat schizophrenia symptoms, medical co-morbidity and substance use, and ultimately to improve the quality of life in this patient population.

Despite pharmacologic advances, the treatment of schizophrenia remains a challenge. Thirty percent of schizophrenia patients suffer from treatment refractory psychosis, a source of considerable distress to patients and family members, and a frequent cause of costly hospitalization. The public health burden of schizophrenia demands the discovery of new treatment paradigms.

The mortality of schizophrenia patients is approximately twice that of the general population. This disparity is directly linked to an elevated cardiovascular risk that is caused by a cluster of clinical features that define the metabolic syndrome: abdominal adiposity, atherogenic dyslipidemia, hypertension, and impaired glucose metabolism. Recent data from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) suggested that the metabolic syndrome is much more prevalent in patients with schizophrenia than in the general population: 40.9 percent versus 23.7 percent, respectively.

The vast majority of patients with schizophrenia use substances. Between 60 percent and 90 percent of people with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes. In addition, between 40 percent and 60 percent use other substances. Substance use complicates the course of illness and the treatment of people with schizophrenia in several ways: It can exacerbate schizophrenia symptoms; affect the pharmacodynamics of the medication taken for psychiatric symptoms; and reduce the likelihood that people will follow the treatment plans recommended. 

For more information about the Psychotic Disorders Program, please click here.